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Center for Educational Technologies projects have ended (except Challenger Learning Center) and are no longer funded.

e-Labs to Bring Experiments and Experts to Classrooms from WJU

Fri Nov 19 2010

Middle school students soon will be able to learn complex math and science concepts with guidance from a visiting scientist beamed live into their classroom via videoconference.

The Challenger Learning Center at Wheeling Jesuit University recently received a $156,000 grant over two years from the Benedum Foundation to create the e-Labs program. The e-Labs will be a series of 12 virtual and interactive lessons in various science and math subjects. The funding provides for pilot tests in 40 schools. The project specifically aims to help rural schools that lack adequate physical laboratories.

e-Labs will be presented by trained facilitators (dressed in lab coats and linked live from a science lab) at the Challenger Learning Center who not only possess a flair for the dramatic, according to the center's director, Jackie Shia, but also the ability to ask interactive questions to encourage critical thinking. Students will help design experiments and predict and explain outcomes.

"e-Labs will be valuable for teachers who lack appropriate content understanding, don't have access to lab equipment, or face potential safety issues in their middle school classrooms," Shia added.

The program builds on the success the Challenger Learning Center has had with its e-Missions program. Students throughout the United States and in 14 countries worldwide take part each year in these distance learning missions facilitated by a professional educator at the Challenger Learning Center. More than 1,000 video connections were made at the center last year. Between the e-Missions and on-site missions in Wheeling, Challenger reaches more than 40,000 students each year.

"e-Labs will be live presentations in an engaging format," Shia said. "The 'visiting scientists' will perform experiments, guide students through difficult concepts, and ask and answer questions. Students will collect data, analyze results, and draw conclusions while working with the scientists. Students will not leave an e-Lab wondering, 'Why do we need to know this?' Instead, they will be asking, 'How do I learn more about this?' "

The project will also include teacher preparatory materials, an interactive website, and workshops to help teachers understand the science concepts and prepare the labs in their classrooms before the e-Labs day.

Here are the proposed activities:

Physical Science:
Get It Moving—Accelerated Motion. A visiting physicist performs experiments using pulleys and a block and tackle.
Keep It Moving—Velocity and Momentum. A visiting physicist conducts experiments using a momentum cart, pulleys, ring stand, utility clamps, and wire ties.

It's Elemental. A visiting chemist shows students a wide variety of elements while explaining the periodic table structure in a real life context.
Matter Matters. A visiting chemist reviews states of matter and changing states and demonstrates major types of reactions.
It's All in The Bond. A visiting chemist constructs a conductivity tester and uses it to test the conductivity of solutions.
What's in a Color? A visiting chemist demonstrates separation of plant pigments by using both paper and column chromatography.
Chemical Reactions. A visiting chemist combines various chemicals to reveal dramatic changes.

Earth and Space Science:
Seasons. A visiting astronomer uses a simulation to compare solar heating caused by the tilt of the Earth with that caused by varying Earth-sun distance.
Tilt to Eruption. A visiting volcanologist uses a model laser tiltmeter on a clay model of a volcano sitting on a balloon to discuss eruption dynamics.
Comets and Orbits. A visiting astronomer shows images of planets, asteroids, and comets and uses orbit simulation software to demonstrate differences in orbit shapes and velocities.

Life Sciences:
Let's Take a Closer Look. A visiting biologist teaches concepts of structure and function and significance to organisms.
Genetics and DNA. A guest forensic scientist produces a "genetic fingerprint" of four fictional robbery suspects, who the students then eliminate as suspects based on DNA bands visible on an electrophoresis gel.

The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation has served West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania since it was established in 1944 by Michael and Sarah Benedum. Grants are made to support specific initiatives in the areas of education, economic development, health and human services and community development.